53 pages 1 hour read

Laura Nowlin

If He Had Been with Me

Fiction | Novel | YA | Published in 2013

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Summary and Study Guide


If He Had Been With Me (2013) is a YA romance by Laura Nowlin. The novel tells the story of Autumn and Finny as they navigate the complicated waters of high school and intimate relationships. Best friends since birth, they find themselves separated by misunderstandings all through high school, only to be pulled back together the summer after graduation, and then ripped apart again. If He Had Been With Me is a New York Times young adult bestseller.

This guide uses the Kindle e-book version published by Sourcebooks in 2019.

Content Warning: This guide includes discussions of mood disorders and suicidal ideation.

Plot Summary

Autumn reflects on a car accident that took place while her friend, Finny, was arguing with his girlfriend, Sylvie. She knows the argument was about her.

Autumn then goes back four years to the beginning of high school. She and Finny have been friends since birth because their mothers are best friends and Finny’s mother, Angelina, lives next door. However, toward the end of eighth grade, Autumn felt pushed out by the group of friends she and Finny shared, so they drifted apart. At the beginning of high school, Autumn and her friend, Sasha, begin a new friend group that includes two other girls and a small group of boys. Autumn and Sasha both fall for a boy named Jamie, but Autumn is the one he chooses.

As freshman year progresses, Finny strikes up a relationship with a girl named Sylvie. Autumn finds herself watching them grow closer each day as they all wait at the bus stop each morning. At school, it is like Autumn and Finny never knew each other. At home, they continue to celebrate holidays together with their families, even though things are awkward between the two of them.

At Christmas, Autumn begins wearing tiaras each day. At first, people tease her about them and her father initially fails to notice, then they express the same disdain as the kids at school. However, Autumn’s friends support her desire to wear tiaras, even adding to her collection on birthdays and holidays.

While becoming annoyed at Finny and Sylvie’s growing relationship, Autumn grows closer to Jamie, and they even discuss marriage and their future careers. Autumn has always wanted to be a writer, but Jamie convinces her becoming a teacher is more practical.

Sophomore year puts Autumn and Finny in the same honors English class. Once again, Autumn finds herself forced to witness Finny’s relationship with Sylvie, and it bothers her for reasons she cannot explain. At the same time, Sylvie’s friend group starts a war with Autumn’s friend group by stealing their table at lunch. This war continues for weeks until Autumn confronts Finny on the day it is his turn to secure the table. He backs down, and the war ends.

Junior year brings about a lot of change, most notably the securing of driver’s licenses among both Autumn and Finny’s friends. Autumn does not get her license, but she benefits from Jamie receiving his as well as Finny, who not only gets his license but an expensive sports car from his father. Autumn catches herself paying attention to Finny’s comings and goings by the sound of his car arriving in his driveway.

Early in her junior year of high school, Autumn realizes she is in love with Finny but accepts that he loves Sylvie. She is also resigned to remaining loyal to Jamie, who she also believes she loves. Autumn picks the college she wants to attend, deciding against becoming a teacher and embracing her creative writing dream. Finny chooses the same school as Autumn. Jamie has chosen a different school, promising they can keep up their relationship long distance.

Senior year brings Finny and Autumn closer as they share a gym class and become partners in their activities. Autumn invites Finny to a Halloween party and he goes, bringing along Sylvie and patching up some of his and Autumn’s differences. However, senior year also brings about the end of the marriage between Autumn’s parents. Autumn’s friend, Angie, becomes pregnant and some of the relationships begin to change. Autumn continues to rely on Jamie only to discover just after graduation that he’s fallen in love with her friend, Sasha.

As summer begins, Autumn is experiencing depression. Finny begins coming around, spending time with her, and pulling her out of her self-pity. They rekindle their friendship and begin to share the feelings they’ve both been hiding. Autumn finally reveals everything she feels through a novel she’s written and Finny quickly reciprocates, becoming intimate with Autumn the day before Sylvie is due to return from Europe. Finny only leaves Autumn so that he can go tell Sylvie in person that he wants to break up.

While Finny and Sylvie argue over their relationship in his car, he loses control in the rain and Sylvie is thrown from the car. When Finny gets out to check on her, he steps into a pool of water that has been electrified by a fallen power line. He dies instantly.

Autumn is so devastated by Finny’s death she attempts suicide. In the hospital, the medical staff draw blood to rule out the possibility of pregnancy. Autumn remains determined to die but remembers how happy Finny was to hold Angie’s baby. She considers living long enough to have his child.